Helena Deland’s ‘Goodnight Summerland’ Emphasizes The Living Heart In Each Lyric

[Cover photo of Helena Deland is by Lawrence Fafard]

Helena Deland’s new album Goodnight Summerland, which arrives October 13th, 2023 from Chivi Chivi was recorded with Sam Evian at Flying Cloud Recordings in the Catskill mountains. It was engineered by Sam Evian, co-produced by Deland and Evian, and mastered by Heba Kadry (Bjork, Beach House, Slowdive).

Deland’s new songs have simpler musical arrangements than 2020’s debut Someone New, focusing on “the sheer joy and transformative power of a good song.”

Helena Deland share the following about Goodnight Summerland:

“I was somehow never moved to google ‘Summerland,’ the place where I was born and of which I have no memory. Until earlier this year, I had been content basing my ideas of it exclusively on stories my parents told: the mandolin-playing roommate, the friendly ghost in the attic, the red Toyota. When I finally got around to looking it up, I was stunned; the aerial views revealed a hilly verdant landscape with a bright blue river running through it. My surprise came from the fact that its beauty had eluded me until then, a reminder of how perceptions relentlessly evolve in spite of distance and time.

In the summer of 2021, I lost my mother, Maria. Though some songs were written before, Goodnight Summerland was recorded in the years following her death and was crucial to my experience of grief. I have grappled with accepting that in losing her, I have lost her stories, her experiences and her ability to understand mine.

In the past two years, I’ve learned a lot about my mother. I contacted her childhood friend, Beverly Zawitkoski, a painter whose work is all over the walls of the house I grew up in. She shared stories of my mom I’d never heard, which left me both enchanted and melancholic after each encounter. Beverly painted the album’s cover.

Grief has forced me to confront death as well as the virtues of vulnerability. It has shown me that both are squeezed out of focus in our individualistic, market-driven society. It has been a pure encounter with mystery. I have felt alone with questions unanswered, and I have come to believe that these questions mean more than their answers could. I have learned that daring to say something difficult is a beautiful thing, a way to bridge the gap created between people in a culture that values individualism over connection.

Throughout the recording process, I worked as a transcriptionist for a research lab studying the effects of ketamine on depression. I transcribed hundreds of hours of audio during which patients dove into a psychedelic state and worked through their traumas and patterns with a psychiatrist, a heightened speech therapy in which it was amazing to hear people turn a corner, swim back to shore, changed. I witnessed how language could be both the slippery terrain of misunderstandings, as well as the way to tether oneself back to the world.

The album could have been called “Saying Something” – songs emerged from the space between speaking and the impossibility to express. In “Who I Sound Like” and “Swimmer,” it is my mother I wish I could talk to. In “Saying Something,” I empathize with the linguistic shortcomings of my friends, family and myself in our ability to bridge the gap and face loss. In “Bright Green Vibrant Gray” and “Strawberry Moon,” I luxuriate in the potential of the unnamed, uncharted territory of romance. In “The Animals,” it is my insecurity that speaks up, blurring instinct, while the environment remains mute to me. In “Drawbridge,” I look forward to speaking to someone who is ultimately unavailable. In “Night Soft as Silk,” I stay up all night trying to blend my mind to a friend’s through speech, ultimately relishing in the impossibility of doing so. Throughout the album, saying something takes precedence over saying something.

I wanted the songs to emphasize the living heart inhabiting each lyric, hoping that the vulnerability it took to write them could remain intact, so that the words could come through in full focus. I recorded some demos in the empty space at my parent’s home in the weeks following my mom’s passing, in between painting the walls a ghostly white, and later with my bandmates (Alexandre Larin on guitar and Francis Ledoux on drums) at a beloved studio in Ontario (Port William Sound). I then took the demos to the Catskills at Sam Owens and Hannah Cohen’s (Flying Cloud Recordings), where Sam and I recorded the versions you hear on the album. It was mixed by Sam and mastered by Heba Kadry, who also mastered my first record, Someone New.

I love this idea that music starts where language leaves off. Writing and recording Goodnight Summerland felt like an act of letting go, of living in that space with the lights turned off. It was a “Goodnight” more than a “Goodbye.” Music said it better than words could.”

Goodnight Summerland cover art by Beverly Zawitkoski

Deland’s debut album, Someone New, was released in 2020 on Luminelle Recordings. It was followed by the release of Hildegard, a collaborative album with fellow Montreal musician Ouri on section1. 2023 has also seen Helena collaborate with claire rousay, on the “Deceiver” single, released in May as part of Mexican Summer’s Looking Glass series, and on July’s “Sigh In My Ear” as part of Saddle Creek’s Documentseries.

In November 2023 Helena will embark on her first headline tour of North America, followed by her first headline dates overseas in February 2024. She has extensively toured North America and Europe opening for the likes of Weyes Blood, Andy Shauf, The Weather Station, Connan Mockasin, Soccer Mommy, and Iggy Pop.

Helena Deland – Headline Tour Dates:

11/02/2023 – Vancouver – Fox Cabaret

11/03/2023 – Seattle – Madame Lou’s

11/04/2023 – Portland – Mississippi Studios

11/06/2023 – San Francisco – Cafe du Nord

11/07/2023 – Los Angeles – Lodge Room

11/08/2023 – San Diego – Casbah

11/09/2023 – Phoenix – Valley Bar

11/11/2023 – Denver – Lost Lake

11/13/2023 – Minneapolis – 7th st

11/14/2023 – Chicago – Lincoln Hall

11/15/2023 – Detroit – El club

11/16/2023 – Toronto – Horseshoe

11/18/2023 – Brooklyn – Music Hall of Williamsburg

11/19/2023 – DC – Songbyrd

11/24/2023 – Montréal – La Tulipe

11/25/2023 – Québec – Le Pantoum

02/13/2024 – Baden – One Of A Million Festival

02/14/2024 – Munich – Milla

02/15/2024 – Berlin – Privatclub

02/16/2024 – Amsterdam – Paradiso Upstairs

02/17/2024 – Paris – Pop Up Du Label

02/19/2024 – Brussels – Botanique

02/21/2024 – London – The Lexington